So once again an evening of Noise in the retro-gothic chasm of the Volksbühne. I mean, hats of to the VB for booking these kinds of concerts, but it’s also un-rock’n’roll to have to remain seated for these events. And make no mistake, Noise is rock’n’roll. Groups such as TG and SPK always maintained they were punk bands, and so they were.
The much-maligned Whitehouse, for example, employ the full bag of rock-tricks: audience provocation, sex issues (it’s usually large amounts of spunk that are being issued in these cases), a “sexy” lead singer, massive volume and the traditional championing of the underdog (here, serial killers and child-molesters, but undeniably underdogs)… in other words, perfect rock. It doesn’t matter that you may not be able to endure a single minute of their music. Some bands are simply more important than how they sound.
Which brings us to Wolf Eyes, the bastard offspring of Throbbing Gristle and Sonic Youth (with just a dash of Metallus Diabolus thrown in). That this band played first is only one of the many peculiarities of the evening. Lanky Nate Young strolls leisurely onstage, followed shortly thereafter to his left by
John Olson (peroxided and slightly portly, he handled some of the more poignant grey noise, tweaking his anything-box and later playing some kind of amputated guitar) and Aaron Dilloway (ditto the funny-box and guitaro, unfortunately bearded… why do they do it?) flanking on the right. With a subtle crackle and fizz and we’re off into a Precambrian seascape, delicate electric ripples stirring up the silurian silt, playing with the trilobites… In the depths, the Globster stirs (note: a Globster is like a hairy Kraken which occasionally washes from fuck-knows-where onto distant shores… last observed in Tasmania in the 1970s).
We morph to a dusky, blurred film-noir soundtrack, complete with pretty convincing alto-saxophone wailing and keenings from Olson and then its back to the electric ooze… this is good stuff for sure. Ring-modulated, fuzzed out, perfectly formless… I’m getting a stiffy just thinking about it. After ten years of doing this stuff, these guys have got it down. No sentimentality, no phony coyness, just aggrevated air molecules doing their thing. They have correctly analysed and distilled the tenor of Rock, keeping the good stuff (feedback, dissonance, dynamic) and throwing away the worthless (melody, harmony and discernable lyrics). Right on. 25 minutes into their short set (40 minutes at most, folks), a slight concession to tradition: guitar-like things appear and Olson and Dilloway do some formation headbanging. Thankfully, it was just the silhouette of a song, not the letter. Some things are better hinted at than sketched out in detail. As the crescendo (or paroxysm) was obtained, all three began to scream in deranged unison. “Thanks, we’re out of here” said Young in a ruined voice, and that was that. Really majestic.
Next up, Battles. Oh boy, how I hated their guts. A “Super-Group” featuring John Stanier from Helmet (couldn’t they afford a drum-machine? He played like one) and the son of free-jazzer Anthony Braxton ( a pity he didn’t inherit his father’s form-destroying instincts). Like “Live at the Fillmore” without Miles, without anything. The guitarist to the left of stage was gumming and jawing like he was on the drugs I wanted to score (Chlorpromazine, of course), simultaneously hammering his guitar with the one hand while playing Jan Hammer lines on the keyboards with his other. Please. This kind of turgid jazz-rock should have been consigned to Hades (or the Knitting Factory, whence it came) eons ago. Makes me shiver just to think about it. Just as I was thinking they should be vapourized, I realised they were going down well with the audience. Hmm. Need a bigger Vapourization Chamber. Negative reviews are best kept short, so goodbye, Battles ( or does the indefinite “s” in their name mean I’ll see them again? I thought the war was over…).
A deep breath and on to Black Dice. I wanted to like them… hell, I think they wanted us to like them! Having just released another accessible noise-dance record on the trendy DFA label (recorded in the Australian hippy-belt of Byron Bay), the brothers Bjorn and Eric Copeland, plus either Sebastion Blunck or Aaron (Copeland? Is this a joke?) were burning to bring us their Evangelium (it was Easter Monday, after all). Lots of hand-played samples and mangled tapes/synth/whatever, itchy scratchy high freq. percussive babble with a kind of lurching rhythmic feel. These guys aren’t bad… and they do seem to wanna make noise… but they’re hippies. They just didn’t convey that same whiff-of-leather sleaze and spite that Wolf Eyes hinted at… to be fair, having to be seated detracted somewhat… maybe if I could have, ah, shimmied to it… Party music, basically, and no bad thing in itself. It has its moments of ugly attraction, its insect funk and rude pop. Skinning-up music. Went on and on. The video-feedback projected behind them was a close enough analogue to their music, I guess, but the guys were as interesting to watch as an aquarium. But I’m sure the music could well blow its swell load in a funkier environment, like some sleazy smoky speakeasy… oh yeah, you can’t smoke and watch bands at the VB.
So Wolf Eyes should have been heaped with tribute and spoils on this night. Besides, they have the better songtitles:”Stabbed in the Face”, anyone? They should have played last,of course. I shimmied home.